Money buys happiness. Let’s face it: There’s no way around it — 60 thousand greenbacks can make anyone’s weekend project shine. To say the least, the person who said money is the root of all evil never had any. So what will money get you? To be redundant, one helluva slick truck.

T.J. Bottoms of Paducah, Kentucky, wasn’t born with a silver spoon or a seven-digit trust fund, but still managed to build a dream machine over a couple of years. Sport Truck discovered the Bottoms’ (a father/son team) handicrafts last July. Back then, the 2000 Chevy Stepside was quite a head-turner and well on its way to being a full-bore custom. Since then, T.J.’s been eating ramen noodles with his left hand while writing checks with his right. Two years into the process, the return of Bottoms’ Rock and all its mods leave one word in the air: money.

For ’02, this showpiece received a major upgrade in sheetmetal: Caddy custom-grade, to be precise. Whereas the original Stepside had real handles and taillights, those were all shaved and smoothed. The rearend now features a roll pan from Sir Michaels with inset flamed taillights, and atop the bed sits a custom-cut Lexan tonneau cover. But the front clip is where it’s all happening. T.J. dropped some dough and slapped on the ’02 Cadillac clip only two months after the parts were released to the market. By combining a Trenz billet bar grille and the GM Caddy sheetmetal, T.J. turned the little Stepside into a big league looker. Stock white paint was kept as a basecoat, with tribal ghost flames added with DuPont pearl Clear. The tailgate features an expertly re-produced Caddy logo in the same pearl.

The inside is just as clean and unique as the exterior, with stock leather seating surfaces kept stitched in. The dash was brightened with a good smoothing/ paintjob and features a flamed gauge cluster from APC. Doors and pedals were treated to some polished billet, and a matching Air Ride Technologies valve panel rests below the dash to pressurize the ’bags. For tunes, T.J. set in play a Sony CDX-C90 head unit coupled to Xtant 3300x amps for a total output of 1,000 watts. The Sound Gallery in Paducah made sure that the system could take the thump with JL Audio’s W3 12-inch sub lineup. To top off the driving experience, a 6.8-inch Sony monitor was placed into the console.

The underside of T.J.’s ride was treated to a full Air Ride Technologies kit. Front ‘bags are supported with a Western Chassis 2-inch drop spindle, Firestone ’bags, and Air Ride shocks. Out back, a custom C-notch resides under the bed and makes for ample clearance of the four-link rig. Control lines are of 3/8-inch braid and tied into a well-hidden air compressor and tank. The whole package rides atop Detata 20s, floating in Dunlop SP9000 rubber.

Under the hood rests a stock 327 V-8. To tie everything together in theme, the mouse motor has been whited-out, loomed, and cleaned up. A simple Air Raid filter system and billet covers are the only evidence of anything being monkeyed with. On the whole, the combination of white interior, white engine, and ghost flames create a dramatic ride with the class of a Cadillac. This truck has, shall we say, maximized the benefits of its inve$tment.